Note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Commission did not go in to executive session.
While last year’s alleged breach of computer servers at the Anderson County Courthouse has caused alarm among employees whose information they were told may have been compromised, and forced the county to spend approximately $400,000 to improve cybersecurity, some good has come out of the incident first reported in August of 2016.
At that time, Law Director Jay Yeager informed employees that their personal information may have been compromised and that they needed to closely monitor all of their accounts for suspicious activity.
In February of this year, however, District Attorney General Dave Clark indicated in a letter to County Commissioners that his office had no reason to believe that any personal or health data for any employees had been taken from the county computer system and that his office had not received any reports of identity theft or similar crimes connected to the breach.
Due to the criminal investigation that has been ongoing since last year, information about the probe and its findings have been hard to come by. Earlier this month, we reported that the investigation turned up no evidence of a security breach and that we had learned the investigation had wrapped up several months ago, with information expected to be released by the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, a release that never came.
Sources within the Sheriff’s Department told WYSH last week that the investigation was still ongoing, but was nearing completion as “i’s” were dotted and “t’s” crossed.
Sheriff Paul White agreed to Commission Chairman Tim Isbel’s request to allow the lead investigator on the case, Detective Don Scuglia, and the county’s full-time IT Director, Brian Young, to update county commissioners on the status of the probe and its findings during a closed-door executive session at Monday night’s Commission meeting. However, before the doors could be closed, Yeager informed commissioners that the matter did not qualify for an executive session as it did not meet the standards for such a move, recommending instead that due to the wide public interest in the case, that any such update be made in a public forum.
Now, back to the good side of the alleged breach.
Brian Young was hired as the county’s first full time IT director on October 31, 2016, and immediately began trying to plug the various cybersecurity holes found during the investigation. After word of the breach came out, investigators and technicians quickly determined that the patchwork security system in the Courthouse was woefully inadequate and that the county was an easy target for criminals. Those security gaps have been filled.
Another of Young’s priorities once on the job became finding ways to streamline the computer system while also saving the county money.
He went through all of the existing accounts from each department for software, hardware and other expenses and began making some serious changes. One of the main changes he made was to renegotiate the county’s contracts with phone and internet service providers, saving approximately $3000 per month and says that when a new fiber system from AT&T and Conmcast gets installed in the coming months, the county will be able to jettison another contract that should bring the savings to the county to an average of $10,000 per month over the life of the five-year contract, or $600,000.
Changes were also made in individual departments, such as the County Clerk’s Office, where changes resulted in $14,000 in savings, and in the Register of Deeds office, where IT personnel used surplus computers from the school system to build new machines better than those already in use at a savings of some $5000.
Some of the changes involved simply canceling payments for warranties on hardware, including monitors and keyboards, and when possible, performing work that in the past had been contracted out to other providers. The IT department was also able to completely repair a badge printer for access badges that went down a few months back at a savings of around $4000 to the county.
We will continue to follow this story for you on the air and online.